The word “creativity” is so overused in marketing and website content, it has become a “non-word,” or a word that has lost all power of meaning. Using “creativity” in all its forms is now an expected part of every corporate mission statement, product description, and service offering. “We creatively solve your problems!” is the mantra of the day as businesses set about proving their creativity with ping-pong tables in the foyer and ice cream socials every Friday.
In this light, it’s easy to develop a sort of callousness to the concept of creativity. You’re not as likely to believe your vendors are actually using creative solutions like they claim, or to think brightly painted accent walls in the office points to free-thinking and inspiration. You might even cancel that corporate retreat designed to spark creativity with crafty activities.
Don’t cancel that retreat. For as much as the word creativity is overused, it speaks to the inherent value of the practice that countless companies want to claim it. Indeed, every business should expect, seek out, and treasure real creativity found in their offices. There are three primary reasons why this is so:
The first and most obvious reason to nurture creativity is because it helps uncover uncommon solutions to problems. When businesses rely on legacy products or processes, they risk becoming stagnant. This translates into not being able to differentiate themselves from the competition in the best cases, and no longer being able to meet their customers’ needs in the worst cases. Regularly brainstorming new solutions and promoting a culture of valuing creativity will empower employees to come up with new ways to solve the same sets of problems your company has faced time and again.
A more subtle benefit is being able to create an ecosystem, or a “long tail,” around your products, your business or your industry. Creative people are good at making connections and finding new uses, additions, and supplements to an existing product. In an economy that’s still not friendly to businesses who do one thing (and one thing well), it is helpful to have a creative team to build a network around your offering, or to enhance your customers’ current experience with your product. That might look like partnering with a company whose services complement your own. It might look like building an education network to expand the use and understanding of key services in your industry. It might mean expanding the application of your primary product into new industries. Think of Apple: while they are known for creating personal computers, they’ve also revolutionized the music industry with their iPod product. Fostering creativity allows your employees to reconsider your current offerings, and evaluate what more you can bring to the table.
Lastly, valuing creativity prompts a shift in focus in what the company is looking for in and from an employee. The attention shifts from simply requiring the ability to process information (which a robot can do) and possessing the skills to do a particular job well, and changes the focus to being able to ask insightful questions. Asking perceptive questions challenges the status quo and could raise up new solutions or strategies. By creating a space where creative thinking is valued, leaders are free to start raising their voices with new ideas. It also has the additional benefit of requiring collaboration, which allows more participation from more people, potentially involving more departments to get creative and cooperate across divisions.
As we know from the sheer number of businesses that use the word “creative” in descriptions without actually being creative, fostering a culture of creativity takes more than declaring it is so. It takes intentionality from leadership and champions within the team to start seeing the benefits of welcoming creativity into your day to day operations.
For example, at Nxtbook Media we’ve established Creativity as one of our 7 core values. Through a process involving the entire company, we’ve come to decide creativity means “We will look past the obvious toward imaginative solutions. We will question the status quo, seeking different perspectives, so that we inspire innovation and originality.” It’s true that our offices are recognized for their “cool” vibe with original artwork, standing desks and meeting rooms, lockers for gym clothes and the ability to decorate your own cubicle. But that’s not what makes us creative. The emphasis on collaboration on projects, the internal reviews held for every strategic project, the value placed on asking “why” instead of just “how,” and the is how we establish our creativity. If you’d like to learn more about how we establish a culture of creativity, let us know! Our Chief Inspiration Officer holds seminars on the topic. The key, though, is to relentlessly pursue it, in every form you can.
August 27th, 2014 by Joy Beachy